In a span of a couple weeks, two of Jarrod Saltalamacchia's mentors have closed the books on their illustrious careers. Considering Jones advised him as a rookie in the Atlanta organization, that retirement announcement hit close to home.
"I got to talk to a guy I grew up watching, so it was pretty cool to be able to play with him," Saltalamacchia said. "He's had a great career. He's a guy that's accomplished anything and everything, so when you feel its time to walk away and stop dealing with the pain and injuries, I'm happy that he's happy."
A first-round pick by the Braves in 2003, Saltalamacchia emerged as one of the top prospects in baseball upon his call-up in 2007. During spring training over that span, Jones allotted time to tutor the catcher on switch-hitting.
Through 47 games in 2007, Saltalamacchia proved to be a quick learner, hitting four homers and driving in 12 runs.
"The art of two different swings –– you got to put the work in on both sides," Saltalamacchia said of Jones' lessons. "You can't just kind of give up on one and do the other. There's a lot of other tidbits here and there that he's helped me out with."
Jones won't have the fairy-tale exit. It was announced Saturday that the 39-year-old would undergo arthroscopic surgery in his left knee and miss Opening Day and possibly more time.
Either way, Saltalmacchia will look to implement the instructions from both Varitek and Jones in his second full season as the Red Sox' starting catcher. And he'll always appreciate the experience of playing alongside both icons.
"They were a big part of the history of baseball," Saltalmacchia said. "Both of those guys were part of it when baseball started to die out a little bit and they were a little bit after the strike, but still, they helped baseball bounce back to be what it is today. To be able to play with those guys, it's a great feeling and to know that I played with those guys, I'll remember that for the rest of my life."
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